By Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Money is still being sought to fund a customs plaza for a planned $3.5 billion bridge between the United States and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday during a tour of operations in Detroit.

Johnson visited the site of the planned New International Trade Crossing in southwest Detroit.

“Once the bridge is built, obviously, it will need a customs plaza to support it,” Johnson told reporters during a Detroit Regional Chamber event. “So we are actively looking at ways to do that. I’ve had that conversation now with members of Congress, members of the Canadian government and my Canadian counterpart.”

The plaza is a vital part of the planned commuter bridge to span the Detroit River, linking Detroit to Windsor. The Canadian government is funding most of the bridge, expected to open in 2020.

President Barack Obama sent his $3.9 trillion fiscal 2015 budget to Congress in March, but it didn’t lay out $250 million in funding for a Detroit border inspection plaza.

“The northern border and trade crossings in the state of Michigan have the potential to make our region a transportation and logistics hub in the Midwest if we make the necessary infrastructure investments now,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters said during Friday’s event. “We should be allocating resources where the economic utilization will be greatest, where the investment will create jobs, increase exports and grow our middle class. Secretary Johnson visiting Michigan is an important step.”

The full $250 million isn’t needed in one year but can be spread over several years, New International Trade Crossing coalition spokesman Tom Shields has said.

Johnson also toured the customs plaza at the Ambassador Bridge near downtown Detroit. That bridge also carries cars, trucks and buses to and from Windsor. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun opposes the construction of the new span.

Johnson was expected Friday to tour the unfinished plaza on the Port Huron side of the Blue Water Bridge between that city and Canada.

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